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True to his pledge, there are many transformation indices that are witnessed in the transport sector. The railway sector which was comatose for many years is now revived and restored to the benefit of the masses with over 3,000 kilometres of rail lines being rehabilitated across the country.
The Lagos – Ibadan – Ilorin passenger train services kicked off last year. There are intercity passenger train services on Minna-Kaduna route, Kaduna-Kano route and Kano-Nguru route, while intercity service is operational in Lagos, Kaduna and Kano states.
There are excursion and freight train services in some parts of South-West while arrangements for the kickoff of such services nationwide have been concluded.
With the rehabilitation of Akeri bridge in Niger State, the Lagos-Kano train service will soon commence while rehabilitation works have commenced for the restoration of PH-Maiduguri rail service.
The Lagos-Kano train service would have taken off by now if not the sudden collapse of the Jangane rail bridge in Niger State which is receiving accelerated rehabilitation by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Nigeria Railway Corporation.
The Nigerian Railway Act of 1955 which hitherto restricted the ownership and operation of train services to the Federal Government is now being amended for local, state governments and private sector participation in the ownership and operation of train services.
Feasibility studies for high speed rail lines from Lagos to Abuja, Lagos-Ibadan and some other routes on PPP arrangement, are in process while new rail corridors will be developed across the six-geo-political zones.
There will be the procurement of modern coaches to ply these rail lines as a modernisation strategy. The Minister of Transport has in many public fora expressed optimism that when the speed trains which for example will ply Lagos-Abuja route in four hours begin operation, the railway transport sytem will compete favorably with air transportation in the country.
In the area of inland water transportation, the lower River Niger covering 572km from Baro in Niger State to Warri in Delta State has been successfully completed with necessary infrastructure such as buoys, navigational aids installed and most maintenance dredging equally completed, thereby making the channel open and accessible for vessels to convey their bulk cargo through the dredged water ways.
The Onitsha Port was commissioned by the President on August 30 while other ports and jetties to enhance inland water transportation are nearing completion. The process for the dredging of the River Benue is about to begin to expand in-land water transportation in the country.
The ports reforms carried out by President Goodluck’s administration has generated tremendous improvement in the sector with the achievements of 24 hours port operations especially in the Lagos ports; reduction of government agencies operating in the ports from 14 to six, thereby minimising delay, costs and corruption; removal of over-time containers and improvement of traffic on Port access roads.
There is an intermodal initiative through the development of inland container depots in Abia, Borno, Plateau, Katsina, Oyo, Kano States under a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer arrangement with the private sector. The Federal Government is developing deep sea ports in Lekki, Abaka in Akwa Ibom, Olokola, Badagry, Brass, Snake Island Service and Koko Port expansion.
The re-emergence of oil theft has compelled the President, the Minister of Transport and DG NIMASA to carry out sensitisation campaigns against this economic sabotage.
The Federal Government is also using NIMASA, the Navy and private sector security platforms to fight this crime. An anti-piracy bill has been submitted to National Assembly to give legal backing to this fight.
While the Cabotage and InLand Shipping Act is being amended at National Assembly, the Federal Ministry of Transport in collaboration with NIMASA is processing the release of Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund which stands at about $140million to eight screened indigenous shipping operators to empower indigenous ship owners to operate effectively in the maritime industry.
Human resource development equally received serious attention in the last one year. The Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology Zaria is collaborating with ABU Zaria for professional training of transport stakeholders.
NIMASA is to establish an Institute for Maritime Studies in the University of Lagos, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State and IBB University Lapai, Niger State. The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (CRFFN) is collaborating with some tertiary institutions in the country for professional training of its members in line with international best practices.
The Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron which has been in human capacity development for the maritime industry since 1997, is undergoing upgrading as a degree awarding institution.
The Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), moderated by NIMASA, is programmed to train cadets for skillful and professional manpower to operate in the maritime sector. Presently, there are about 247 cadet trainees from different states in the country undergoing professional maritime training in UK, Egypt, India under the programme.
Indeed, the nation’s transport sector is undergoing serious over hauling and upgrading under the supervision of Senator Idris A. Umar, the Minister of Transport in accordance with President Jonathan’s transformation agenda.
This piece was sent by Innocent Ebirim, Media Assistant to the Minister of TransportShare